Register of the Records of the
FIFTH STREET MERCHANTS ASSOCIATION
Gail E. Farr
Processing and cataloguing of this collection was supported in part by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.
The Fifth Street Merchants Association developed in one of the four neighborhood commercial centers in Philadelphia selected in 1974 to participate in a revitalization program supported by the federal Economic Development Administration and the City of Philadelphia's Office of Housing and Community Development. Formed in 1975 and largely informal in character (the organization had no written charter), the association represented the interests of merchants and in the area, many of whom were Spanish-speaking.
Membership consisted of persons or firms maintaining a place of business within the Fifth Street corridor from Lehigh Avenue on the north to Allegheny Avenue on the south (2700-2900 blocks of North Fifth Street), the "Golden Block." Among them were Puerto Ricans who were numerically the largest Spanish-speaking group in the neighborhood. The first president was Domingo Négron of Grafícas 5000, a printing and graphic arts firm. Other persons who served as president included Pedro E. Pupo, the Cuban-born owner of Pupo's Bakery, and Candida R. González. Most of the principle businesses in the district took part in the organization during the height of its activity from the mid-1970s through the early 1980s. Among the persons whose names appeared regularly in the proceedings were Manuel Lorenzo, representing El Hispano newspaper; Nelson A. Diaz, executive director of the Spanish Merchants Association of Philadelphia; and Pat Shoemaker from the City of Philadelphia mayor's office.
The organization served a number of purposes. One was to sponsor member services such as workshops and advertising promotions to increase business in the district. A second function of the association was to provide a link between the merchants and the surrounding residential community. A third function of the organization was to act as a liaison between the city government and the Fifth Street business district in lobbying for municipal services, such as better police protection and street repairs. Other projects included neighborhood clean-ups, off-street parking development, and participation in the annual Puerto Rican Week Festival. Finally, the association provided a base for ethnic business leaders and planning officials to implement programs such as those sponsored by the Neighborhood Commercial Revitalization Division of the Philadelphia Citywide Development Corporation, a major conduit for public and private redevelopment funds in Philadelphia.
The organization was associated with city development plans in the area from the group's inception. In February 1976, the Fifth Street Merchants Association worked cooperatively with the Spanish Merchants Association to form an Economic Revitalization Committee chaired by Marvin Solomon of Girard Furniture Company. Representatives of SMA and the Fifth Street Merchants joined in the groundbreaking ceremony for the Fifth Street Neighborhood Revitalization sponsored by the City at the 2700 block of North Fifth Street on 3 May 1976. In July of that year, members of Fifth Street Merchants heard a presentation by John Sower, director of the National Development Council, who met with the group to discuss the availability of loans for improving their business property. In 1977, with assistance from the Neighborhood Commercial Revitalization Division, Philadelphia Citywide Development Corporation, the organization began working on a plan for storefront improvement.
The group continued to support urban renewal projects on North Fifth Street in the 1980s and is still active today.
These materials were found among records accessioned from the Spanish Merchants Association of Philadelphia in 1988.
SCOPE AND CONTENT NOTE
This collection is made up of a small lot of minutes, correspondence, financial statements, and other organizational records detailing the history of the Fifth Street Merchants Association from 1975-1979. Additionally, the collection contains minutes from a meeting of the association held in 1987, but the primary focus is on the earlier period. Almost all of the material is in English with the exception of a few items such as announcements which were issued in both English and Spanish.
Of special interest are the minutes of meetings, 1975-79 (Folder 3). The minutes document the election of officers, discussion of matters which came before the group, and names of persons who participated in the organization. Included are lists of signatures of persons who attended the meetings. Additional information on membership of the association is available in the membership applications and agreements, 1977 (Folder 2), and financial records such as receipts for payment of dues, 1976-77 (Folder 12).
Two small but informative correspondence files shed light on the relationship between the association and city officials involved in the development of the Golden Block in the late 1970s (Folders 5-6). Folder 5 contains correspondence chiefly between the Association's president, Candida R. González, and others on issues which concerned the organization. Included is an exchange between González and mayor Frank L. Rizzo regarding the lack of parking facilities in the neighborhood. There are also incoming items from Guillermo Salas, Jr., executive director of the Spanish Merchants Association, and Marta Luz Diaz, president of the Merchants and Professional Association, Inc., on North Fifth Street, a native of El Salvador who became president of the Fifth Street Merchants in the early 1980s. Folder 6 contains correspondence and memos concerning neighborhood revitalization efforts sponsored by the Philadelphia Citywide Development Corporation (PCDC). Of particular note are a run of letters and memos from Dane Wells, manager of the Neighborhood Commercial Revitalization Division of PCDC, from May 1978-January 1979, advising the Fifth Street Merchants on strategies for securing development funds. Also included are letters to Mrs. González from Joan E. Greenberg, Project Coordinator of the Neighborhood Commercial Revitalization program, who assisted in preparing and implementing a parking study and storefront improvement plan. Discussion of many of the suggested improvements, and numerous black-and-white illustrations, are found in the bilingual booklet, Storefront Design Criteria/Criterio Para El Diseño de las Fachadas Comerciales: 2700-2900 Norte de la Calle Cinco, prepared for the Fifth Street Merchants Association by the Philadelphia Architects' Workshop and published by the city's Office of Housing and Community Development in c. 1978-79 (Folder 7).
Maps indicating the location of proposed Fifth Street parking improvements c. 1978-79 are found in Box 2.
Several photographs have been removed from the Fifth Street Merchants Association files and placed in Photo Group #345, Balch Institute.
Additional relevant materials: For further information about the development of the Golden Block and commercial activity in the area, see the records of the Spanish Merchants Association of Philadelphia (MSS 114), The Latino Project (MSS 117), the Hispanic Federation for Social and Economic Development (MSS 116), the Council of Spanish Speaking Organizations (MSS 120), the Puerto Rican Week Festival (MSS 119), and their companion guides, Balch Institute.
The box list of the register of the records of the Fifth Street Merchants
Association is four pages long.